FAYETTEVILLE - Six Arkansas scholarship seniors and a walk-on senior suit up in their final career Walton Arena game Tuesday night for a Razorbacks team desperate for them to bow out victoriously against an Auburn Tigers team desperate to win the SEC Championship.
At 8 p.m. on SEC Network TV, coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks, 20-9 overall, 9-7 in the SEC on Senior Night for starting guards Anton Beard, Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon, and starting forward Dustin Thomas and reserve big men Trey Thompson and Arlando Cook and walk-on JT Plummer.
Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers, 24-5, and at 12-4, one game ahead of second-place Tennessee, 11-5, with two games to play in the SEC regular season ending Saturday before starting all over again with next week’s SEC Tournament in St. Louis.
Also, the Hogs feel they have a score to settle since Auburn jumped them for a 47-30 first half on Jan. 6 in Auburn, Ala. and withstood Arkansas briefly cutting the margin to single digits before prevailing 88-77
Pearl’s Tigers, denied clinching at least a share of the title in last Saturday night’s 72-66 loss at Florida, should come in emotionally charged against a Razorbacks team coming into its Senior off a big 76-73 victory at Alabama and playing to improve its SEC Tournament seeding and insure its NCAA Tournament berth which Auburn already has on both counts though the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament seeding could go up or down from these final games.
“I think both teams will be motivated,” Anderson said. “We're going to be motivated. We want to protect the home court, It's big game. And I'm sure for them it's a big game as well. They're in position to win a championship. It's a team we played earlier in the year and they won on their home court. So we want to make sure we take care of business on our court.”
Anderson has a deep feeling for this class which includes his two star guards, second-year junior college transfer scoring leaders Barford and Macon both closing in on scoring 1,000 career points (983 for Barford and 986 for Macon), second-year JC transfer forward Cook, second-year University of Colorado transfer forward Thomas, and his two-year seniors, Beard of North Little Rock and Thompson of Madison via Forrest City High.
“I’m sure it’s going to be emotional, a special night for them,” Anderson said. “Especially when you are talking about Trey and Anton Beard, the guys were babies when they came here. And they’ve been very instrumental I think in the success that has taken place. They’ve had some ups and downs along the way but they have had the staying power.”
All are on course to get their degree, Anderson said with Thompson already graduated in December.